Chris Hershman photo of a dog taken with the Z f, looking up to the camera
I bought a Z f to capture personal moments in my life, and this is a great example. This was a casual shot taken during my morning “coffee on the porch” routine. My dog was lying in the sunshine reflected from the glass door of our house, and I liked how the reflections and shadows fell on the ground. Nikon Z f, NIKKOR Z 40mm f/2 lens, 1/1000 second, f/2.8, ISO 125.

Photographer and filmmaker Chris Hershman has been a Nikon shooter since the days of the D70S. Currently based in Nashville, Tennessee, Chris spends his days creating video content for a marketing agency, but in his spare time, he enjoys shooting candid portraits—both human and animal. We sat down with Chris to learn more about his approach to personal work and find out how the Z f has transformed how he captures meaningful moments.

“My main camera kit for work is a Nikon Z 8 and Z 6 II, with the “trio” of f/2.8 mirrorless zoom lenses: NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S and NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S lenses. Outside of professional use, my goal has been to capture as much as I possibly can on my cameras, rather than constantly getting out my cellphone. That’s what led me to purchase a Z f—a feeling that I wanted to capture some of the most important casual moments in my life on a proper camera. Basically, I want to move from always carrying my gear in a backpack to carrying it in a fanny pack!”

Chris Hershman portrait of his dog in profile, taken with the Z f
During a quiet moment, our dog Murphy looks out of the window at our local dogpark, wishing he was playing. This was shot with a Z 105mm f/2.8. It’s really sharp and shows all the fine hairs on his face. Nikon Z f, NIKKOR Z 105mm f/2.8 S lens, 1/250 second, f/11, ISO 2200.

Chris explains how the Z f has inspired a new style of shooting in his “off-duty” moments:

“Compared to my main kit, with the Z f, I’m looking to get artful, authentic, and more playful images. I’ve found that the Z f enables experimentation in a way that I really enjoy. I’m reaching for my F mount lenses a lot with the FTZ II adapter, like my old AF DX Fisheye-NIKKOR 10.5mm f/2.8G ED, and a manual focus NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2, to get a distinctive look. I use the Z f’s focus peaking feature with the 50mm f/1.2, which is great for manual focus, even when I’m shooting at wide apertures. I love the Z f’s black and white mode, too. Especially for available light portraits on the 50mm f/1.2.”

Editors’ note: Focus Peaking is a feature in Nikon Z mirrorless cameras that helps with accurate manual focus. When Focus peaking is activated, high-contrast, in-focus areas in a scene are indicated with a colored highlight.

Chris Hershman portrait of a man in low light, lit by Speedlight flash
My buddy Micah invited me out to see some live music in Nashville, and I took this portrait at the venue. This was taken with the Z 26mm f/2.8 and SB-300 Speedlight. I snooted the light from the flash with my hand to get a strong vignette. This was a quick “one and done” shot, but I like how it turned out, with Micah peering through the curtain. Nikon Z f, NIKKOR Z 40mm f/2 lens, 1/60 second, f/2.8, ISO 250.

While Chris uses manual focus a lot, there are times when he needs the advanced animal and human eye-detection autofocus of the Z f:

“I moved to Nashville this year, and it’s a big dog city, so I’ve started a project taking pictures of dogs and their owners. I’ve been shooting a lot with the Z 26mm f/2.8, getting up really close to dogs running around, and you need good autofocus for that!”

Chris Hershman photo of a man in a cowboy hat sitting, looking at the camera
Another portrait of Micah at his home. We were trying to create a storytelling image of an artist in his writing environment. He has these cool stadium seats right outside his front door–this shot was almost an outtake at the end of the session, but it ended up being one of our favorites. Nikon Z f, NIKKOR Z 40mm f/2 lens, 1/250 second, f/2, ISO 1250.

While his professional work is all digital, Chris is a keen film shooter in his spare time. He explains how the Z f combines the best aspects of both kinds of shooting:

“I’ve always enjoyed the process of shooting film because it slows you down to really think about your settings. It feels like with the Z f, the designers took what was great about film cameras, and used that to make a really practical digital camera for a modern photographer. There’s something about having mechanical dials that just make you want to turn them, and I’ve found that it gets me in the mindset to expose for a sharable image straight away, rather than relying on post-processing the RAW (NEF) file to get an exactly graded shot, which is what I’d do for my professional work. I use the SnapBridge app. and I have it set up so that as soon as I take a picture with the Z f, it’s automatically transferred to my phone. That’s such a different workflow compared to my usual day-to-day—it doesn’t feel like work anymore. And I think it makes me a better photographer, to be honest.

Chris Hershman portrait of a woman with a colorful background, taken in low light
This is my wife, taken in our house. I wanted to create a really colorful image with bold contrast, and I knew I wanted to shoot in the square format. I used an LED sunlamp behind her, cycling through different colors as we shot. Strobes provided the main illumination with a light modifier to create a strip of light across her eyes. Nikon Z f, NIKKOR Z 40mm f/2 lens, 1/200 second, f/2.8, ISO 640.

“If I shoot film nowadays, it’s to stay inspired and separate the experience from my day-to-day professional work. The Z f isn’t going to replace my Z 8 for commercial work, but when I clock off for the day, that’s when I’ll reach for the Z f. It’s the best of both worlds – the experience of film shooting, with the convenience and quality of digital. And it looks good around my neck!”

Chris Hershman photo of birds flying around a telephone pole and wires, in B&W, taken with the Z f
This was taken enroute between Nashville and Chicago. I had the Z f on my lap the whole time to document the trip. I was lucky enough to have the camera set up for a fast shutter speed and snapped this image from the moving car as I noticed the birds taking off. I shot this using the Deep Monochrome Picture Control. Nikon Z f, NIKKOR Z 40mm f/2 lens, 1/2000 second, f/4, ISO 100.

Chris Hershman

Chris Hershman is a filmmaker, photographer and musician. At a young age he began photographing bands throughout the Midwest, with his work evolving into video capture. Chris draws inspiration from live music, natural lighting and the raw talent around him. He has filmed for the Chicago Music Exchange, and captured bands such as the Alabama Shakes, Brian Blade, Tall Walker, and many other artists.

You can see more of Chris’s work at his website.
Follow him on Instagram and Vimeo.